Working Session 1: Identifying Threats and Challenges
Presenters, and participants from CRL member libraries and GWLA, discussed the most pressing issues related to the preservation and accessibility of data for water-resource research. Are institutions preserving the most important content, and doing so appropriately?
Some of the major challenges identified during this session included:
- Growth in demand for water-related information and data: The issues surrounding the use, supply, and management of water are of growing importance to the academic, policy, and business communities. Water issues permeate a number of related areas (agriculture, environment, geology). Expanded interest brings the challenge of educating non-technical users on what is available and how it may be used.
- Poor understanding of uses/users/markets: Most institutions do not have a librarian devoted specifically to water resources, and materials are often scattered throughout the general collections, government document holdings, and special collections. There has not been sufficient research on how patrons across sectors and fields are making use of collections, how they are discovering resources, and what they would like to see accessible in electronic format.
- Diversity of actors/producers: Many different types of organizations produce, collect, and distribute water resource data. These organizations include federal, state, regional, local government agencies, NGOs, development organizations, for-profit service and consulting firms, and others. The aims of these organizations vary widely.
- Inaccessibility of historical information: While most current reports and data are now made accessible online by the various producing agencies, those agencies’ practices and policies on retention and availability of non-current information vary.
- Non-discoverability of current information: Even while more information is online for public use, the lack of uniformity of standards, display methods, and application of metadata make it extremely difficult for users to discover potentially relevant information.
- Diffusion/compartmentalization of preservation efforts: Numerous successful efforts preserve water research data and documentation and make it available online. However, the lack of coordination among such efforts threatens to create numerous “silos” that hamper uniform access to data. Common standards, tools, and sharing of best practices are necessary to bring together disparate efforts to assist in discovery and use.
- Funding: The decline of public funding (federal, state, and local) caused by the economic downturn jeopardizes a number of major open access projects that make water data available, and will probably contribute to the privatization of erstwhile public data.
Working Session 2: Toward an Action Agenda
What actions can libraries and partner organizations take to better ensure the survival and integrity of the most appropriate re-sources? What new models, partnerships, and investment strategies will best address these challenges? Where do we focus our efforts? The participants of the session outlined the following priorities and recommendations:
A) Federate regional and local efforts at international level: U.S. and Canada1. The community should exert its collective influence on the appropriate agencies of the U.S. federal, state, local, and foreign governments responsible for electronic record retention and distribution:
- National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Electronic Records Archive (ERA): work with NARA through appropriate channels (such as the USGS) to articulate and provide water community input on the development of the ERA. This development should yield trickle-down benefits to state, regional, and local government records.
- Government Printing Office (GPO): communicate needs to ITHAKA, which is working with the GPO on a vision for the future of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). CRL may also represent the interests through its audit and certification of FDSys, the GPO content management system for the archiving and dissemination of digital library publications created by federal agencies and established library partners.
- National libraries: Articulate water community needs to National Agricultural Library (NAL), perhaps through the recently an-nounced collaboration between CRL and the U.S. Agricultural Information Network (USAIN).
- Library of Congress/Overseas Operations: work with LC staff in the field offices in India, Pakistan, Nairobi, Cairo, Brazil, and West Africa (CAORC) to strengthen acquisition of foreign NGO and government information on water.
- Share information on best practices and models for the dissemination of water information with major funding agencies (National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute of Museum and Library Services, others) to assist in the development of guidelines for future funding cycles.
- Use CRL-USAIN cooperation to plan and support efforts to preserve and disseminate water-related agriculture information.
- Use CRL-LLMC partnership to digitize and preserve water-related legal information.
- Use CRL TRAIL project to digitize and preserve water-related engineering information.
- Use CRL to acquire or license water-related data sets for libraries.
B) Standards/replicable, extensible platforms1. Bring extant efforts to scale by federating and broadening bases of support, and certify those efforts, so that their practices, tools, and formats (e.g., WaterML) become de facto standards.
2. Influence NARA-ERA to mandate appropriate government agency-wide standards and practices for water-related government information. These will then become standards for state, regional, local agencies.
C) Leverage capabilities where they exist1. Exploit infrastructure and technologies already funded and developed through federal, university, and consortium investment, such as CUAHSI, ContentDM, GIS systems, etc.
2. Utilize developing technologies and trends—such as social media—to extend the reach of projects and further awareness.